Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, the creators of HUMANS, discuss blazing a new trail in Season 2, giving the show a more global feel and the dangerous complexity of new Synths “waking up.”
Q: HUMANS is back for a second run. What can you tell us about the new season?
Jonathan Brackley: We can certainly reveal that the small band of conscious Synths that we came to know in Season 1 are not the only conscious Synths in Season 2. There are more out there. And I think the show gets a lot bigger and more global. Stakes increase. The story just grows. Episode 1 goes from Berlin to San Francisco and back to the UK. We find our characters fractured and scattered, but the story will gradually reel them all back together.
Q: As you say, the show seems to be on a larger scale. Did you intentionally try and give it a more global feel as an effort to up the stakes?
JB: I guess so. We wanted to move the world on a bit – even though the events of Season 2 take place only a few months after the end of Season 1, we wanted to get the feeling that the world in which these machines exist has progressed and evolved, and these things are moving further and penetrating deeper into all our lives. I think as part of that, we needed to show they were being implemented on a wider scale, not just in this country but abroad as well. We wanted to give it that more international feel to show that the whole world is moving forward apace with these things.
Q: The first season was based on the Swedish drama Real Humans. Have you moved away from it now, or are they still heading in similar directions?
JB: We’ve moved almost completely away now. In the first season, certainly Episode 1 was quite similar to the Swedish series, but we took our characters and story lines in slightly different directions. So, by the end of the first season, our characters were in a completely different place to where they would have been at the end of the original Swedish series. Which meant we were starting from a completely new place at the beginning of Season 2. So our Season 2 is a total departure from the Season 2 of the Swedish show.
Q: Is it easier or harder to write something that is based on an existing template?
Sam Vincent: I think we had a perfect deal, really, because we had the comfort of having a framework from which to adapt our story, but we also had freedom from the get-go. There was no obligation to adhere to what the Swedish series had done. So we had this fantastic show, and all its brilliant stories and characters there to use, but we could then take it in its own direction. And it’s just organically grown into its own thing. And now we’re in Season 2, and we’ve diverged completely from the original. It’s fantastic to have that freedom, but we wouldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t been able to start with the wonderful basis that they’d given us in the first place.
Q: Did you already have an idea of what direction Season 2 would take when you wrote Season 1? Did you have ideas in mind, or do you get a commission for Season 2 and think “What do we do now?”
SV: You don’t want to be in that situation, that’s for sure!
JB: As we were writing the first season, we knew where our characters and story lines were going to go, and where they were going to conclude in the season, but as you’re writing that, you can’t help but have ideas for beyond. As we were developing and moving forward and coming towards the end of the last season, we had an idea of where they’d be going next, should we be lucky enough to get a second season.
Q: Is it more difficult to write dialogue for a conscious Synth? It’s neither one thing nor the other…
SV: Well, we always approach it roughly from the basis that they are human, because if we’re saying that they’re thinking, conscious, feeling beings designed by a genius human creator, it’s pretty impossible to imagine that they’d be able to think and feel as we do and not essentially develop as humans. When they’re scared, they’re scared like we are. When they’re in love, they’re in love like we are. We do afford them a level of precision in the dialogue. Even if they’re in a very emotional state, their minds are still more ordered than ours are. They speak in a more precise way. But so much of it is down to the actors and directors to find a way that the conscious Synths can express emotions whilst remembering that their minds work very differently, and their bodies are mechanical. So basically we try and push as much of the hard work on to the actors as possible. Let them do it, that’s our philosophy!
Q: And in this season, you have a lot of Synths experiencing consciousness for the first time. That’s a completely different challenge, isn’t it?
SV: Yes, that was interesting, because in Season 1, our conscious Synths had been conscious for some time, so it wasn’t something we really had to deal with. So trying to work out how the newly conscious Synths would behave was a challenge for us. We decided quite early on in the process that the waking Synths would be able to remember their lives when they were unconscious, unfeeling machines. They can remember what happened to them. But only now can they attribute emotions to those things that happened in their past. So they are reliving those emotions all for the first time. So we imagined it would be a very difficult, confusing experience for them to have.
Q: Do you have a favorite character in the drama?
SV: We’re seeing some of the actors tomorrow, so we’d better pick one of them!
JB: We spend so much time with all these characters, it’s a genuine ensemble cast, and such a big cast for a show like this. But there are bits of each character that we absolutely love to write for. I think it would be very tough to pick one out.
SV: Oh, you’re trying to land me in it?
SV: It would be very hard to pick one out – there are so many different aspects, the characters are so different. It was so much fun, writing the very formal dialogue that Anita had in the early stages of the series, before she became Mia. She’d recite these long, legal speeches about what she could and couldn’t do. That was tremendous fun. Then when we saw what Gemma could do with those – rattling them off so expertly – that was a pretty wonderful thing to write for. Then you have a character like Odi, who was quite rare, because he’s an unconscious Synth, and he was flawed and a little more basic than some of the other Synths we’d seen. That was tremendous fun as well. And then you get the more freewheeling, jokey, natural dialogue of the Hawkins family. The actors and the range of characters we have give us so many opportunities. I think I’ve managed to avoid picking a favorite there as well!
Q: If the technology was suddenly available, would you get a Synth?
JB: As a very lazy man, I would have to say yes. But I think it’s more than that, it’s not just the convenience for me. It would be just too fascinating to have one in your house as a technological marvel. I’d be too intrigued to find out what it was like, what it could do, not to have one. I don’t think I have any particular fears about them – certainly not the fears we portray among some of the Hawkins family.
SV: For me, we got asked this question last year, and I said no at that point. My son was very young, and the reason I gave was, although it would be fantastically convenient to have one, I couldn’t really square the idea of having a Synth look after my baby son with him having his nappy changed, and lying up and looking into these cold green eyes, devoid of those little emotional signifiers and moments of connection that make up our human interaction and help our minds develop. Surely it would really warp him to look at something that looked really human but wasn’t? Now my son’s a bit older, I think he’d be fine, so I’d probably get one as well. I was looking at the Amazon Alexa the other day, which is this smart speaker thing that you can have in your house and get to do a range of things, and I was thinking “Oh, I’ll get one of those.” And if I want to get that, how can I possibly say I wouldn’t want to get a Synth?Read More